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Xcom Global and FreedomPop Mobile WiFi Hotspot Review

Xcom Global Mexico and USA WiFi Hotspots

No one likes to pay for expensive WiFi at hotels and resorts, but you do have some options.  I check out two mobile WiFi hotspots here, a "free" option from FreedomPop, and a prepaid daily hotspot rental with an unlimited data option from Xcom Global, which serves the USA and 179 countries.  (What is a WiFi hotspot?)

Xcom Global USA Mobile WiFi Hotspot

Xcom Global sent me a USA Mobile WiFi Hotspot to test out on my travels.  Xcom offers a daily rental service with unlimited data.  You order the hotspot online, and it’s delivered to you just before you depart.  It arrives in a carry case with a USB charger, cord, instructions, and a prepaid return envelope.  Printed on the outside of the hotspot are the WiFi SSID and the password that secures your connection.

Xcom Global USA Hotspot in Las Vegas.

I took the hotspot to Las Vegas, using it in two hotels, various restaurants, and in the Convention Center.  The biggest convenience was not having to worry about finding a WiFi connection I could trust.  I just turned on the Xcom hotspot, and all of my devices (phone, iPad and Chromebook) instantly had secure connections.  Speed was good.  Not crazy fast, but worked very well for maps, email, and basic web viewing.  Xcom says the data is unlimited, but bandwidth will be decreased or cutoff by the local wireless provider if you use a lot of data.  My connection was never fast enough to support streaming video or online backup.  When you are done with the device, return it in the provided prepaid shipping envelope.  Current cost is $14.95 per day.

FreedomPop WiFi Hotspot.

As part of my normal travel gear, I also took a FreedomPop WiFi hotspot to Vegas.  This can be a "free" service.  You buy the hardware, and then are offered lots of service upgrades beyond the free 500MB monthly option.  The catch is that free service is only a slower 3G connection, and I found coverage limited.  Last year I upgraded to a 3G/4G device which costs me $3.99 a month for 500MB of data.  I have also added the monthly unused data rollover service option for $3.99.  This allows me to accumulate up to 20GB of data.  If you go over your plan’s base data or rollover amount, you are charged on a per megabyte rate.  Plans and rates vary; check FreedomPop website

Over the years I have found the FreedomPop hotspot more than enough for my limited data usage while on the road.  The Xcom and the FreedomPop Internet connection speeds were similar.  If you are on a limited budget and watch your data usage very closely, this can be a good option.  I also use the FreedomPop as a backup Internet connection for my home.

Xcom Global Mobile WiFi Hotspot for Mexcio.

While watching my Twitter feed, @MurrayOnTravel, Xcom Global noticed I was headed to Mexico, so they sent me a review unit for that trip.  It included a Universal Plug Adapter/USB charger, cable, instructions, case, and return label.  When you travel from country to country with Xcom, they may give you different devices for specific countries.  I sure was glad I had this device at my first hotel in Puerto Vallarta.  It was a beautiful modern resort, their WiFi service provider was not always reliable.  I pulled out the Xcom Global hotspot, and I was online.  At first it was very slow, but I contacted Xcom tech support by email, and they suggested I follow the reset instructions provided with the unit’s instructions.  After that it worked flawlessly.  Details can be found on the Xcom Global website.

Xcom Global WiFi Hotspot overlooking beach at Iberostar Resort.

I did have one more problem, which was my fault.  I left the unit on a balcony chair in Mexico's hot mid-day sun after taking the above photo.  A few minutes later I lost my Internet connection.  The unit had overheated.  I put it in the mini-bar refrigerator and crossed my fingers.  Later that day it fired right up. 

Xcom Global Mobile WiFi Hotspot at the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort beach.

The Xcom Hotspot worked well in six different locations in Mexico's Riviera Nayarit region, which included some remote resort locations.  I would suggest international travelers look seriously at the Xcom Global service.  The pre-paid daily rental option is a real convenience, as is the unlimited data and the ability to support multiple devices.  For US residents traveling in the USA, other options might be a better choice if you watch your data usage closely.

Hotel Metropole, Review of Mini Suite 215, Avalon, Catalina Island, California

Catalina Express boat from Long Beach to Avalon, Catalina Island, California

You can't just jump in the car and drive to the Hotel Metropole.  It takes more planning than that since it's located on Catalina Island, in the city of Avalon, 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.  A Catalina Express high speed boat is the best bet for visiting this picturesque town and Catalina Island.  

Boat ride to Avalon Harbor and Catalina Island.

These high speed boats leave up to 30 times per day delivering passengers from Long Beach and San Pedro to Avalon Harbor in about an hour. The boats are fast and comfortable, although the ride can be rocky when seas are stormy.  Seats are available inside and outside for that wind in your hair excitement. 

Catalina Express boat arriving in Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island.

Catalina Island was made famous years and years ago in this song by the Four Preps: 26 Miles (Santa Catalina).  Today it's a great weekend getaway from the hectic lifestyle of Los Angeles.   

Beach in Avalon with Casino Ballroom in distance.

It's an easy walk from the dock to the Hotel Metropole. Cabs are available if you have lots of luggage. Along the harbor path you will see several gift shops, restaurants and bars. 

Front, ocean/harbor view rooms at Hotel Metropole Avalon.

The Hotel Metropole offers four mini-suites with excellent views of the ocean and Avalon Harbor. The rooms overlook the street, but you won't hear much traffic.  This review is of Suite #215, which is the lower left room in the above photo. 

Entrance to Hotel Metrople Avalon, California.

The hotel entrance is along the side, just up a small hill. You will notice the golf cart above. Very few traditional cars are allowed on Catalina Island, but golf carts and other small vehicles are popular. You can rent a cart for a few hours and drive around town for fun.  Avalon is a small town, and very walk-able.  

Lobby of Hotel Metropole Avalon CA.

The two story lobby is small and simple. Check in was fast and easy.  Access to room #215 was either by elevator, then walking across the hotel, or the fast way -- exiting to the sidewalk, entering an unmarked side door, and climbing a flight of stairs.

Ocean View Mini Suite #215 at Hotel Metropole Avalon CA.

Rooms at the Hotel Metropole are lovely. This mini-suite is one very large room with a comfortable bed and a romantic fireplace. I've also stayed in a "Superior" room overlooking the courtyard and found it to be equally well appointed. 

Chairs at window in Hotel Metropole.

A cocktail table and two chairs look out over the balcony to the ocean beyond.   Moving the balcony chairs to the side improves the view when inside.  The dark wood floors add a modern, elegant feel to the room.

Balcony overlooking ocean from Mini Suite 215 Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

A balcony overlooks Avalon Harbor and the ocean. All four mini-suites at the Hotel Metropole have a similar view, but the second floor units have a balcony above.  So if you want full sun exposure, ask for a third/top floor room. 

View of Harbor & Ocean from Mini Suite #215, Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

From the balcony it's easy to spend hours watching the water, boats, and passersby on the street.  This is one of the best hotel room views available in Avalon.   

Mirror artwork in room #215, Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

It should be noted that this room is located next to an outdoor bar. After dark the music shouldn't have been an issue, but the speakers for the bar are screwed into the exterior wall that makes up this part of the hotel.  The wall vibrated with the music all evening.  Front desk had no solution.   

Bath room #215.

Bath is spacious with a jet tub and separate glass shower. It also has a sliding door that opens up the view out to the ocean. 

Bath in mini suite #215.

The Hotel offers a variety of basic amenities. You can find more information about the Hotel Metropole on their website.

Balcony rooms overlooking courtyard at Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

A few other rooms have ocean views; most have courtyard exposures that are nice. But they are not as spectacular as the views the mini-suites offer. 

Evening view from ocean view mini suite #215, Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

Open the window, turn on the fireplace, pour two glasses of wine, and the view from the bed or the balcony will last a lifetime.  

Morning view of ocean and harbor from mini suite #215, Hotel Metropole.

Many visitors leave on the evening boat, only spending the day on Catalina Island, and missing the evening stars and the morning sunrise.   

Classic old Catalina Island tour bus.

A large variety of tours are available for those that want to explore this vast Island.  It is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, which limits development and tries to keep the area outside of town as wild and natural as possible. 

The Casino Ballroom overlooks the ocean and Avalon Harbor.

Take one of the tours of the area and learn about the history of Avalon and Catalina Island. On the pier -- a two-minute walk from the hotel -- are a variety of water sports and boat tours. A few small sandy beach areas are found along the harbor.  One is just opposite the Hotel Metropole. You might want to ask first before swimming in the harbor; water pollution from the large number of boats has been a problem in the past.  

Swing dancers and a Big Band perform in the Casio Ballroom.

The Casino Ballroom is in a beautiful, historic structure and a must-see for anyone visiting Catalina.   It also houses a movie theater that plays current releases.  Arrive early for the show and take in the beauty of the classic art deco movie house

The high speed Catalina Express boat leaves Catalina Island for Long Beach.

Catalina Island is a magical spot.  It might be just minutes from the City of Angels, but it will transport you back to a time when things were slower and simpler. If you make the extra effort to visit this charming place, you might want to stay at one of the finest hotels in the harbor town of Avalon -- the Hotel Metropole.